Thus far, the Los Angeles Lakers have built an identity around physicality and toughness on the defensive end, and the efficiency that comes with LeBron James and Anthony Davis driving what they’re hoping to do offensively. It’s an identity that has won them five straight games and earned Davis Player of the Week honors.
A big part of that defense has been the point of attack defenders: Avery Bradley and Alex Caruso. They’ve made life difficult on opposing ball-handlers and been vital in rotations. Caruso specifically was asked about his defense, and told Mike Trudell of Spectrum Sportsnet during a televised pregame interview that he’s just trying to do whatever it take to help the team win:
“I just try to do my job. Whatever position I’m in on the court in practice or in a game, or on the bench, I’m calling out coverage and calling out where guys are, and just trying to fly around. And I think that’s a big key to this team is being able to play defense, and I’m just trying to do my job whenever I’m out there.”
This season, the Lakers are giving up 85.5 points per 100 possessions while Caruso is on the court. Of anyone who has played as much as Caruso has (82 minutes), that’s the best defensive rating on the team. Dwight Howard (who also seems to relish the role he’s played) is second on the team with a 90.4 DRTG.
These are obviously small sample sizes, but as of right now, the data seems to back up what you probably would’ve predicted heading into the season: That Caruso is pretty easily the Lakers’ best defensive point guard.
Fortunately, Bradley’s leg injury from late during the Lakers’ last game doesn’t seem to have him or Vogel all that worried, so he’ll continue to spearhead the defense with the starters. But very few teams have as defensively capable of a backup as the Lakers do in Caruso. Should he continue to be so good, and should everyone else continue to enjoy this defensive identity, the Lakers might have a pretty special team on that end of the court when it’s all said and done.